Only one team will be able to replicate the positive feelings Wednesday night when Dallas visits Orlando.
Orlando (23-54) will be attempting to win consecutive games for the sixth time this season and first instance since beating Detroit and Memphis on March 2-3. The Magic are 3-11 in their last 14 games but are coming off one of their more dominant showings in a 97-73 road win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
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Orlando allowed a season-low in points, its second-lowest opposing field goal percentage (34.9 percent) and second-lowest 3-point shooting percentage (14.8 percent). It was the fewest points allowed by the Magic since an 86-70 win against the New Jersey Nets on March 16, 2012.
Offensively Orlando achieved the win by making 11 3-pointers while getting quiet nights from Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, who scored seven and 11 points respectively. Mario Hezonja scored 19 points and is averaging 15 points in his last five contests.
Orlando is among the league’s worst teams at 3-point shooting but has made at 10 3-pointers in five of its last six games.
“I mean, it’s helped us a lot, especially early in the season,” Hezonja told reporters. “But we can’t rely only on our 3-point shot. We’ve seen a lot of times when we weren’t making 3-point shots, we’ve been bad defensively. We lost a lot of games like that. But it’s definitely good to have that ability and that firepower, but you can’t really rely everything on that.”
Hezonja’s point is accurate.
When the Magic sped out to an 8-4 start, they shot 41 percent from 3-point range. Since then, they are shooting 34.2 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
I think we’re getting there because we always want to be more precise with our shot selection because sometimes we settle too much,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel told reporters. ‘”The league has definitely adopted that style of play and we’ve shifted dramatically from where we were last year. We’ve got to improve our percentages both with the guys who are in uniform and in terms of acquiring more shooters next year.”
Dallas (24-54) will attempt to win consecutive games for the sixth time and first time since getting home wins over Denver and Memphis on March 6-10. The Mavericks are 3-9 in their last 12 games after hitting 38.6 percent (17 of 44) of their 3-pointers in a 115-109 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. scored 18 points and is averaging 17.2 points on 45.6 percent shooting in his last six games since a brief absence due to an ankle injury last month.
Harrison Barnes added 15 and in his last 17 games, he is averaging 21.2 points and shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range.
“That’s what teams are still going to give him,” Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki told the Dallas-Morning News of Barnes. “His midrange is deadly. So teams will play off him a little and hope he shoots the three. But the last few weeks, I feel like he’s having a great rhythm and he’s going to be a tough matchup for anybody.”
Nowitzki also appeared in his 899th career regular-season win and can become the sixth player to play in 900 wins. If he reaches it Wednesday, he would join a list that includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Tim Duncan, John Stockton and Karl Marlone. Nowitzki also scored 14 points and is at 31,187 career points, which ranks sixth all-time.
Nowitzki and the Mavericks have not lost a season series to Orlando since 1997-98 — the year before he was drafted. In the 34 games Nowitzki has played against Orlando, Dallas has won 25 times.
Dallas beat Orlando for the third straight time and 11th time in the last 12 meetings when Nowitzki scored 20 points in a 114-99 home win on Jan. 9, marking the 21st time he reached at least 20 points against Orlando.